Banning State Park-Sandstone-Minnesota

Today’s hiking adventure began at Banning State Park.

The weather was a cool 34 degrees as we started our hike. Mother Nature’s glitter coated the forest floor.

We hiked on the freshly fallen leaves towards Wolf Creek Trail.

Rocks jetted out from the forest floor along the trail.

Large boulders intermixed with the trees.

We arrived at Wolf Creek Falls.

Our adventure continued on a trail that was not labeled. Fall color popped everywhere we looked.

The green moss covering the rocks was so vibrant.

Large cliffs loomed above us. At times, we may have been on a deer trail, however, we continued on the small path before us.

We reached the Kettle River. What a sight!

We reached a dead end at a giant boulder along the river. We thought about getting into the river and wading around the boulder but due to the cold weather we decided that was a bad idea.

We backed up a bit and climbed up the cliffs. After catching our breath, we continued along a trail we found. After a few minutes on the cliff trail we looked below and saw another trail closer to the river. The trail looked too adventurous to pass up. So, down the cliffs we went.

The trail led us under giant boulders.

We found these cool potholes. Not sure if they were made by the flowing river or if they were man-made.

Hell’s Gate Trail was the name of the trail we were on. It was an absolute blast and hard as hell.

Today’s hiking adventure was 4.7 miles.

Myre-Big Island State Park-Albert Lea-Minnesota

We hiked Myre-Big Island State Park on July 14, 2022.

Our hiking adventure started on the Big Island Trail which looped around the island.

Big Island’s plant life was a vibrant green. Surrounding the island was the cool water of Albert Lea Lake.

We crossed the causeway to the mainland where we hiked the Bur Oak Trail to the Great Marsh Trail.

A beautiful black swallowtail graced us with its presence.

We made our way to the Blazing Star Prairie Trail. This trail was HOT! The July summer sun beat down on us. The view though made the heat worth it.

The wildflowers were loving the sun!

Briefly, we hiked the White Fox Trail to the Plum Trail until we reached the causeway again.

A curious deer greeted us when we returned to Big Island.

Mushrooms were beginning to take over a tall tree stump which created an intriguing sight.

Our hiking adventure was 8 miles.

Sakatah Lake State Park-Waterville-Minnesota

We hiked Sakatah Lake State Park on July 14th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began early on a Thursday morning. The sun was brightly shining and the birds were singing. We started our hike on the Sumac Trail.

The Sumac Trail led us to the Oak Tree Trail.

We crossed over a little creek. It appeared to be more of a puddle than a creek though.

Briefly, we hiked the Sakatah Singing Hills State Trail. We found a small frog on the paved trail. To keep it safe, we moved it to the side of the trail so it wasn’t squished by the many bikers that passed by.

The Wahpekute Trail allowed us to hike alongside Sakatah Lake.

We could tell we were the first people of the day to hike the trail. Hundreds (ok maybe not that many but it felt like it) of thin single strand spider webs crossed the trail which made for an itchy hike.

Looping back onto the Oak Tree Trail we found several beautiful mushrooms.

Our hiking adventure was 3.3 miles.

Maplewood State Park-Pelican Rapids-Minnesota

We hiked Maplewood State Park on Aug 13th, 2022.

Minnesota is home to over 10,000 lakes. The trail we hiked took us past four different lakes however, the 9,250-acre park has 8 major lakes, 7 small lakes, and many ponds. A pelican statue greeted us as we began the trail.

The winding trail led us through the forest.

At times the forest was so quiet. The air was still, the birds were silent, and the small critters were absent. With heavy dark clouds covering the sky, the forest became a bewildering and mysterious place. The lake views echoed this energy.

Scattered throughout the forest were the most amazing mushrooms.

Fall colors were beginning to pop on some of the leaves.

The final stretch of the trail led to an open prairie. Several horses shared the trail with us.

Our hiking adventure was 7.4 miles.

Rice Lake State Park-Owatonna-Minnesota

We hiked Rice Lake State Park on June 26th, 2022.

Our adventure began on the trail by the shoreline of Rice Lake.

The trail led us through the lush forest.

We found an open burl on a tree that became more fascinating the closer we looked. Unique spirals on the bark of the tree burl intrigued us. It almost looked like the sky from The Starry Night painting by Vincent Van Gogh.

The trees on the trail continued to display their individuality.

The forest landscape dissipated and a large vibrant green prairie appeared before us.

The final stretch of the trail led us back through the forest and by a boat launch for Rice Lake.

Our hiking adventure was 2.8 miles.

Lake Louise State Park-Le Roy-Minnesota

We hiked Lake Louise State Park June 26th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began and ended on the Wildwood Loop Trail.

We hiked alongside the Little Iowa River and Lake Louise.

The forest was so lush and green.

Our hiking adventure was 1.2 miles. As we were heading back to our car a beautiful bright blue butterfly landed at our feet.

Never underestimate a short hiking adventure. Sometimes, it leads to the best eye candy.

Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park-Preston-Minnesota

We hiked Forestville/Mystery Cave State Park on June 25th, 2022.

After a morning of rain, the sun began to shine as we started our hike. We hiked the Maple Ridge Trail Loop and part of the Big Spring Trail.

Forestville Creek and South Bend Root River ran parallel with the trail at times.

The Hackberry Emperor butterflies were in season and they were everywhere! They are very social butterflies. Several hitched a ride on us for over a mile.

Hundreds of the Hackberry Emperor butterflies covered the ground near the creek.

A beautiful Tiger Swallowtail joined in the fun as well.

And let’s not forget our mushroom friends. Pretty sure they were enjoying the humid weather.

Our hiking adventure was 3.7 miles.

Our next stop…the Mystery Cave.

We opted for the hour-long scenic tour of the cave. The Minnesota DNR Officer who led the tour did an excellent job explaining the caves ecosystem. We enjoyed learning about the Minnesota DNR’s thoughts on the Mystery Cave which is conservation over exploration.

This is a brief explanation of the following photos. Stalactites form from water dripping from the ceiling. Stalagmites form from the ground upwards. When the stalactites and stalagmites meet, it is called a pillar or column. Flowstone is when water drips down the walls of the cave.

A fossil on the wall of the cave.

The tour ends at a breathtaking turquoise lake.

Check out the Mystery Cave if you are ever in Preston Minnesota.

Beaver Creek Valley State Park-Caledonia-Minnesota

We hiked Beaver Creek Valley State Park on June 25th, 2022.

Our hiking adventure began on the Beaver Creek Valley Trail. The trail followed the winding Beaver Creek. This allowed us to cross over the creek several times on our hike. The creek is well known amongst people who fish for its brown and native brook trout.

The air was as thick as the fog that clung closely to the top of the creek. A mysterious, almost eerie scene was cast before our eyes.

The wide, well maintained trail led us to a large open prairie that was surrounded by a dense forest.

Our hiking adventure was 3.7 miles.

Great River Bluffs-Winona-Minnesota

We hiked Great River Bluffs State Park on June 25, 2022.

The rain poured as we began our hiking adventure. We followed the King’s Bluff Trailhead to the King’s Bluff Overlook.

The light fog and rain created a mystical environment. We felt like we were walking into an enchanted forest.

The ground was a bit muddy at times. Thankfully, Mother Earth provided natural traction as we hiked up the hills.

The plants and flowers were soaking up the rain.

Fog gently danced around the top of the trees.

The overlook was breathtaking! The Mississippi River can be seen in the distance.

Our hiking adventure was 2.6 miles.

John A. Latsch State Park-Winona County-Minnesota

We hiked John A. Latsch on June 24th, 2022.

The Riverview Trail has a rating of difficult due to the 592 steps one needs to take straight up the bluff to Mount Charity Overlook.

On a hot, sunny and humid summer day we took our time climbing up those stairs. We saw glimpses of what the top of the bluff might offer the higher we climbed.

We made it to the top of the bluff! The overlook was worth the climb. The view of the mighty Mississippi River was magnificent.

Lock and Dam #5 can be seen in the distance.

What goes up must come down.

Our hiking adventure was 592 steps straight up the bluff.

Whitewater State Park-Altura-Minnesota

We hiked Whitewater State Park June 24th, 2022.

Our hike began on the Coyote Point Trail. The trail is rated difficult which we soon learned why. As soon as we crossed over the Middle Branch Whitewater River the trail went straight up the bluffs.

The trail began to level off the higher we went. First we reached an open prairie, then took a quick hike through the woods, and finally reached a gorgeous view from the bluffs.

We hiked down the Dakota Trail. This offered an amazing view of the giant stone bluffs from a different angle.

The Dakota Trail ended by the Nature Store. We stopped in for a refill of cold water and began the Meadow Trail. We crossed back over the Whitewater River. Colorful wildflowers popped out among the vast amount of greenery.

The Valley Trail led us to a small section of the Dakota Trail we hadn’t hiked before, so back up the bluffs we went to the Coyote Point Trail, and then back down to our starting point.

Our hiking adventure was 5.6 miles.

Carley State Park-Plainview-Minnesota

We hiked Carley State Park on June 24th, 2022.

Midmorning on a beautiful sunny warm day, our adventure began. The trail looped us around the North Branch Whitewater River.

Birds were singing, grasshoppers were jumping, and the plant life was so lush it had a tropical feel to it. We were surprised we didn’t see monkeys swinging from the trees.

The unpaved trails were wide and well maintained.

Mushrooms were enjoying the humidity.

We came to a river crossing however, there wasn’t a bridge to cross. The large rocks that jetted out in the river were spread out just far enough to make it too hard to use them to get across. We really wanted to see the trail on the other side of the river, so we decided to take our boots and socks off and cross barefooted. The cold river felt great on our feet.

Once on the other side of the river, the trail became much narrower.

We crossed the river a few more times. Thankfully, there were giant concrete steps for us to use.

Carley State Park is known for their spring Bluebells. Unfortunately, these were the only Bluebells we found.

Our hiking adventure was 2.4 miles.

St. Croix State Park-Hinckley-Minnesota

We hiked St. Croix State Park June 3rd, 2022.

As we drove into the park, we noticed that the main park office was 5 miles off the highway. Wow, this park must be gigantic was our first thought. Yep, it is!! St. Croix State Park is the largest state park in Minnesota at over 33,000 Acres!

Our first stop was the Fire Tower. The Fire Tower was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. With 134 steps to the top and 100 feet tall, we were up for the challenge.

As soon as we cleared the top of the trees, a gust of wind hit us and our adrenaline kicked in. No stopping now, we had to make it to the top. We continued our climb to the top for a breathtaking view.

With a rush of energy, we were ready to begin our hiking adventure. We drove to the St. Croix Lodge to hike the trails closest to the St. Croix River. Behind the lodge we found a trail leading down to the river.

The River Bluff Trail was the next trail we hiked.

There were a couple of interesting nature finds on this hike. The first, a tree completely burned to a crisp surrounded by other lush trees. Second, we found a communal nest of caterpillars… kind of cool, kind of gross.

The River Bluff Trail offered wonderful views of the St. Croix River below.

Beautiful trees, wildflowers, mushrooms and tall prairie grass kept our spirits high.

The River Bluff Trail led us to the historic ruins of the Civilian Conservation Corps camp.

The bugs began to attack, so we looped back on the River Bluff Trail back to our starting point.

Today’s hiking adventure was 5 miles.

Wild River State Park-Center City-Minnesota

We hiked Wild River State Park June 3rd, 2022.

Our hiking adventure started on the River Trail by the Visitor Center.

The plant life was so lush and green alongside the unpaved River Trail. Large ferns were growing everywhere! Song birds gifted us with a wonderful soundtrack as we hiked.

The royal blue sky reflected off the calm St. Croix River.

We crossed over Spring Creek.

Due to all the rain we have had this year, sections of the ground were flooded. It created an almost swampy feel to the land. My cousin teased that we would stumble across an alligator.

Dragonflies danced all around us.

The trail led us to the Nevers Dam Overlook. The history of this location is interesting. Nevers Dam stretched across the river connecting Minnesota and Wisconsin. In the late 1800’s, large logs used to be sent past this location as they made their way to the sawmills down river. In 1903, Northern States Power Company purchased the dam as a way to control the water flow for the hydroelectric dam being built downstream. The dam was removed in 1955 after it was damaged by flood waters. I saw no remnants of the dam, just a beautiful overlook.

A beautiful fine sand beach was next to the Nevers Dam Overlook.

The last part of the River Trail looped us close by the river.

We hiked the Old Logging Trail back towards the visitor center.

Our hiking adventure was 5.3 miles.

Interstate State Park-Taylors Falls-Minnesota

Our hiking adventure began at Interstate State Park on June 3rd, 2022.

We hiked the Walter F. Mondale River Trail along the St. Croix River. Just as we were beginning our hike, we found a single leaf on a tree in the shape of a heart. I read this as a sign from Nature letting us know today was going to be a great day for a hike!

Rocks and tree roots jetted up from the ground below creating the unpaved River Trail. Large boulders decorated with vibrant green plant life surrounded us on the trail. Wildflowers added a splash of color.

The trail offered several overlooks to view the St. Croix River. I found it interesting how the river appeared to change color right before our eyes.

We headed up the stone staircase to view the river from a higher angle. The river below looked like flowing root beer.

Our next stop was the Glacial Potholes.

Giant Basalt boulders surrounded us. Trees grew right on top of the rock.

We crossed the US-8 Bridge over the river and into St. Croix, Wisconsin. The trail in Wisconsin offered views of the turbulent St. Croix River.